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Blind Vocal Mic Shootout! Condenser Microphones
View Poll Results: Which Mic Suits My Voice Best?
Mic #1
9 Votes - 40.91%
Mic #2
9 Votes - 40.91%
Mic #3
4 Votes - 18.18%
Voters: 22. You may not vote on this poll

Old 20th January 2018
  #1
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Kroc's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Blind Vocal Mic Shootout!

Hi all! So, I know there are a lot of mic shoot-out threads in this forum, but here's my spin:

I'm preparing to record an album. I have three great vocal mics. Each one is different, in terms of design and price point.
Without knowing anything about them, based on these clips, which one would you use to track lead vocals for tracks with my voice if you were producing them?

The raw vocals are through a UA Apollo unison preamp, clean setting. I tried to level match as accurately as possible. Vocals start about 15 seconds in.

The 'full mix' versions (WARNING, LOUDER) were tracked differently to try to get the best out of each mic. 1 and 3 were recorded through an ISA 430 MKII (with different impedance settings for each), 2 was recorded through a Golden Age Pre-73. All three were recorded with minor compression through a Warm Audio WA76 going into a WA2A. No EQ or effects, except for a gentle high pass filter and some light UAD EMT-140 plate reverb.

Everything was recorded in my untreated control room, with a Kaotica Eyeball where possible. The song I'm using for testing is 'Come Pick Me Up' by Ryan Adams (swear warning! :P ). Very interested to see what you think!

Cheers,
Dan
Attached Files

1 - Full Mix.mp3 (3.95 MB, 1778 views)

1.mp3 (3.99 MB, 1868 views)

2 - Full Mix.mp3 (3.98 MB, 1768 views)

2.mp3 (3.95 MB, 1840 views)

3 - Full Mix.mp3 (3.96 MB, 1781 views)

3.mp3 (3.97 MB, 1824 views)

Old 20th January 2018
  #2
Gear Addict
 

I think 2 would be best once it saw some EQing, but as they are 1 is the best solo'd and I guess in the full mix though I still think 2 is going to be the real winner in the end with a full polish.
Old 20th January 2018
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

I can't say exactly what it was, but something about 2 won it for me. It just sounded...smoother...more, organic. 1 had a lot of presence in the full mix, but I think that has to do with the mixing. 2 makes your voice a bit more...creamy...glued together. It's hard to describe the differences between the 3 takes, but I think words smoother, organic, creamier do a good job.
Old 20th January 2018
  #4
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TurboJets's Avatar
I really like the sound of mic #2 but #3 seems to really flatter your voice very well. I selected #3 .
Old 20th January 2018
  #5
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Old 20th January 2018
  #6
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I liked n.1 best when solo'd, I found it a lot more articulate than n.2, so much that it sounds like you're mumbling in some places.
n.3 I also found better than n.2 because of the airiness, but that too didn't sound as clear and articulate as n.1.

In the mix n.2 sounded better than when solo'd to me, but still sounded a bit like there was a blanket on your head when you were singing and the mids were a bit exaggerated, in my head the mic used was a bad/uninspired mimicking of a 47.
I still preferred n.1 but by a shorter shot, and if I had to choose I'd definitely use that recording, with a bit of EQing to add some body and a pinch of air.
n.3 sounded even more hyped in the high end, not brittle but almost brittle, and probably that too is fixable but the definition/clarity/articulation from n.1 I still don't hear.

Thanks for taking the time to make this shootout!
I'd appreciate if you could let us know, either in the thread or via PM which microphones the clips were recorded with!
And last thing, not to be pedant but you may want to post in the audio clips/shootouts/comparisons section of the forum :p
Old 20th January 2018
  #7
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Kroc's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Fascinating! Thanks for the replies so far. I'll leave this open for discussion for a little while before I post the results.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carabinerx View Post
I think 2 would be best once it saw some EQing, but as they are 1 is the best solo'd and I guess in the full mix though I still think 2 is going to be the real winner in the end with a full polish.
Quote:
Originally Posted by VenVile View Post
I can't say exactly what it was, but something about 2 won it for me. It just sounded...smoother...more, organic. 1 had a lot of presence in the full mix, but I think that has to do with the mixing. 2 makes your voice a bit more...creamy...glued together. It's hard to describe the differences between the 3 takes, but I think words smoother, organic, creamier do a good job.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
I've attached another clip of Mic #2 through my other outboard preamp, which has a totally different tonal profile. Curious to know which you prefer!

Quote:
Originally Posted by spambot_2 View Post
I liked n.1 best when solo'd, I found it a lot more articulate than n.2, so much that it sounds like you're mumbling in some places.

Thanks for taking the time to make this shootout!
I'd appreciate if you could let us know, either in the thread or via PM which microphones the clips were recorded with!
And last thing, not to be pedant but you may want to post in the audio clips/shootouts/comparisons section of the forum :p
My pleasure. Thanks for giving your feedback!
Whoops! Didn't realise there was a whole other section for this. Is it improper to post a thread twice, or would I have to ask a mod to move it?

Ha, to be fair, I think with that take I did kind of mumble the second half of the word 'face' in the first verse. Tried to keep it as consistent as possible, but I was doing about 25 takes of the same thing.

This shoot out has been very enlightening so far.
Attached Files

2 - Full Mix - Preamp B.mp3 (3.97 MB, 1573 views)

Old 20th January 2018
  #8
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I think this one (mic n.2 pre B) sounds better, as in, more balanced and less "closed", with less of that blanket over the mic effect.
Still, I prefer mic n.1 - much more present and clearer, if a tiny bit thin, which I'd say could be fixed with some EQing.
Not that you couldn't "fix" mic n.2 with some EQ as well, but still I reckon it wouldn't be as [adjectives I used before] as n.1, especially when you go higher in pitch.

My own opinion of course.
Old 20th January 2018
  #9
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Hard to say for sure because 2 is louder and you were a bit close for my taste, but in the clips as presented I like 3 the best.
Old 20th January 2018
  #10
Gear Addict
 

mm, i had been listening on an ipad, but now im thinking, though I still chose 1 as is, I think it might just be the better all around...though 2 is workable
Old 20th January 2018
  #11
Here for the gear
 

I think 1 is best, but 2 comes close. You're a good singer.
Old 20th January 2018
  #12
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Kroc's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by spambot_2 View Post
I think this one (mic n.2 pre B) sounds better, as in, more balanced and less "closed", with less of that blanket over the mic effect.
Still, I prefer mic n.1 - much more present and clearer, if a tiny bit thin, which I'd say could be fixed with some EQing.
Not that you couldn't "fix" mic n.2 with some EQ as well, but still I reckon it wouldn't be as [adjectives I used before] as n.1, especially when you go higher in pitch.

My own opinion of course.
For sure! All good observations. Thanks for sharing your opinion. Because of the inherent subjectivity of this stuff (ears, listening environments, personal preference, etc), the only way to get a real idea of what actually works is to get as many opinions as possible.

Without giving anything away yet, I will say that I often reach for #1 if I'm recording something denser, where I need vocals to cut through and sit in a pocket in the middle of the mix on top of the rhythm bed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Hard to say for sure because 2 is louder and you were a bit close for my taste, but in the clips as presented I like 3 the best.
All the vocals were recorded approximately 10 inches from the capsule. I figured that would be a good middle ground. However, I did use a Kaotica Eyeball to reduce the room tone, which I think is increasing emphasis to the low mids (possibly adding to the perceived 'closeness'). Looking forward to treating my control room and turning the attached walk-in wardrobe into a super dead vocal booth, as I imagine the mics will sound a little more open. Though at the moment, this seemed to be the fairest way to conduct this experiment.

Here are more clips, with some EQing and volume changes.

Cuts (narrow Q) for mics #1 & #2 : -5dB @ 500Hz, -3dB @ 1kHz. For mic #3 : -3dB @ 702Hz, -3dB @ 1kHz.

Boosts (SSL EQ plugin, broad Q), all three mics: +1.32dB at 1.92kHz for bite, +1.6dB at 8kHz.

Mics #1 and #2 are also both turned down 1dB.
Plus a little bit of sweet 1/8th note delay.

Disclaimer: I think the first verse performance in #2 was a little less enunciated, which should probably be taken into account.
Attached Files

2 - Full Mix - Tweaked.mp3 (3.98 MB, 1387 views)

3 - Full Mix - Tweaked.mp3 (3.96 MB, 1397 views)

1 - Full Mix - Tweaked.mp3 (3.95 MB, 1381 views)

Old 20th January 2018
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
All the vocals were recorded approximately 10 inches from the capsule. I figured that would be a good middle ground.
Reasonable. On the other hand, a foot from a good LDC will sound about the same distance as an inch from an RE20. Give or take.
Old 20th January 2018
  #14
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I listened again today and I think I like 1 the most now. It ends up sounding louder in the mix and has a little more body to it although I'd still like a little more clarity in the mix.
Old 20th January 2018
  #15
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Kroc's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asim_Hussain View Post
I think 1 is best, but 2 comes close. You're a good singer.
Thanks. :D

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carabinerx View Post
mm, i had been listening on an ipad, but now im thinking, though I still chose 1 as is, I think it might just be the better all around...though 2 is workable
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
I listened again today and I think I like 1 the most now. It ends up sounding louder in the mix and has a little more body to it although I'd still like a little more clarity in the mix.
Interesting! I'm also curious, was there a particular reason that #3 didn't stand out for you?
Old 20th January 2018
  #16
Gear Guru
 
Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
Hi all! So, I know there are a lot of mic shoot-out threads in this forum, but here's my spin:

I'm preparing to record an album. I have three great vocal mics. Each one is different, in terms of design and price point.
Without knowing anything about them, based on these clips, which one would you use to track lead vocals for tracks with my voice if you were producing them?

The raw vocals are through a UA Apollo unison preamp, clean setting. I tried to level match as accurately as possible. Vocals start about 15 seconds in.

The 'full mix' versions (WARNING, LOUDER) were tracked differently to try to get the best out of each mic. 1 and 3 were recorded through an ISA 430 MKII (with different impedance settings for each), 2 was recorded through a Golden Age Pre-73. All three were recorded with minor compression through a Warm Audio WA76 going into a WA2A. No EQ or effects, except for a gentle high pass filter and some light UAD EMT-140 plate reverb.

Everything was recorded in my untreated control room, with a Kaotica Eyeball where possible. The song I'm using for testing is 'Come Pick Me Up' by Ryan Adams (swear warning! :P ). Very interested to see what you think!

Cheers,
Dan
1. seems to work nicely.
2 .has some sibilance issues, not terrible though. Its its a "prettier" sounding mic, but that doesn't mean its right for this record.
3. I like the tone of this mic, but its a little uneven sounding, and again some sibilance, a little more offensively than 2.

If I were in the chair, I'd go with 3 or 1. I'd know 3 would take a little extra work, but it does have a cool vibe about it, so it might be worth it.

BTW I really like the guitar tone. What's the instrument and mic on that?
Old 20th January 2018
  #17
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Kroc's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
1. seems to work nicely.
2 .has some sibilance issues, not terrible though. Its its a "prettier" sounding mic, but that doesn't mean its right for this record.
3. I like the tone of this mic, but its a little uneven sounding, and again some sibilance, a little more offensively than 2.

If I were in the chair, I'd go with 3 or 1. I'd know 3 would take a little extra work, but it does have a cool vibe about it, so it might be worth it.

BTW I really like the guitar tone. What's the instrument and mic on that?
Interesting! Thanks for the detailed comments. None of the tracks have any de-essing applied, and I'm sure the compression isn't helping it. My voice is a little sibilant to begin with (generally around the 5.4kHz area, if I'm not mistaken), and I can usually zap it out pretty transparently with FabFilter Pro-DS.
When you say Mic #3 sounds a little uneven, in what way do you mean?

Thanks about the guitar tone! The guitar is my pride and joy, a 2011 Gibson Hummingbird True Vintage VOS.
She'd sound sweet recorded through a tin can, but in this case I threw up Mic #2 and recorded her with it pointed around the neck joint through the Apollo LA610-B emulation. There's a tiny bit of UAD LA2A compression to contain the louder parts in the chorus to minimize conflict with the vocals, a narrow -3dB cut at 723Hz, and a gentle 1.5dB bell boost at 15kHz. Plus a little bit of the same plate verb bus that the vocals are being sent to. But that's it for processing.

I'm actually planning to do a big shoot out session for my guitar mics next, though I'm not sure if I'll post it yet.



It's great to get all this insight. The devil is in the details, and it's harder to see them objectively when you self-produce, so all this external feedback will be invaluable.
So far I'm getting the sense that people are gravitating towards mid-forward microphones for my voice that bring out the details.
A separate question... after hearing my voice, which mic would you instinctively reach for?
Old 20th January 2018
  #18
Mic 1 seems to have a clarity and presence which I like. All three could be made to work, I believe. But given the furnished samples, I voted for #1 .
Old 20th January 2018
  #19
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Drumsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
Interesting! Thanks for the detailed comments. None of the tracks have any de-essing applied, and I'm sure the compression isn't helping it. My voice is a little sibilant to begin with (generally around the 5.4kHz area, if I'm not mistaken), and I can usually zap it out pretty transparently with FabFilter Pro-DS.
When you say Mic #3 sounds a little uneven, in what way do you mean?

Thanks about the guitar tone! The guitar is my pride and joy, a 2011 Gibson Hummingbird True Vintage VOS.
She'd sound sweet recorded through a tin can, but in this case I threw up Mic #2 and recorded her with it pointed around the neck joint through the Apollo LA610-B emulation. There's a tiny bit of UAD LA2A compression to contain the louder parts in the chorus to minimize conflict with the vocals, a narrow -3dB cut at 723Hz, and a gentle 1.5dB bell boost at 15kHz. Plus a little bit of the same plate verb bus that the vocals are being sent to. But that's it for processing.

I'm actually planning to do a big shoot out session for my guitar mics next, though I'm not sure if I'll post it yet.



It's great to get all this insight. The devil is in the details, and it's harder to see them objectively when you self-produce, so all this external feedback will be invaluable.
So far I'm getting the sense that people are gravitating towards mid-forward microphones for my voice that bring out the details.
A separate question... after hearing my voice, which mic would you instinctively reach for?
When I say uneven, I'm talking about frequency response. Some things stick out, some are subdued. A little EQ and compression (or frequency compressions) can probably even it out.

In my room, I'd probably reach for Neumann CMV 563 or maybe iSK 2B for you. I'm reviewing the AA CM67se and I think that might work for you, too.
Old 20th January 2018
  #20
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monkeyxx's Avatar
2 for me
Old 20th January 2018
  #21
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TurboJets's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
Thanks about the guitar tone! The guitar is my pride and joy, a 2011 Gibson Hummingbird True Vintage VOS.
Beautiful tone, hard to play. You must have fingers of solid rock. LOL

Almost bought a Hummingbird in '93 because of the amazing tone but just couldn't get on with the string tension.
Old 21st January 2018
  #22
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Kroc's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drumsound View Post
When I say uneven, I'm talking about frequency response. Some things stick out, some are subdued. A little EQ and compression (or frequency compressions) can probably even it out.

In my room, I'd probably reach for Neumann CMV 563 or maybe iSK 2B for you. I'm reviewing the AA CM67se and I think that might work for you, too.
Thanks for the suggestions. I hadn't considered any of those. I've heard good stuff about Advanced Audio.
I'm also curious to hear myself through a U47-type (considering building an AMI kit), but am wondering if it might be too dark for my voice.

Though a preamp upgrade might work even better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboJets View Post
Beautiful tone, hard to play. You must have fingers of solid rock. LOL

Almost bought a Hummingbird in '93 because of the amazing tone but just couldn't get on with the string tension.
Lol! That's a shame - you might have tried a dodgy one/one in desperate need of a setup? Though I'm not sure what they were like during that production period.
I do play professionally several hours, several days a week, but I haven't noticed it being any harder to play than my Taylor or Maton. In fact, I'd say it's the most playable out of all my acoustics (certainly the most inspiring and rewarding tonally), and isn't too hard on the fingers, even for lead/lick playing. It just use regular light gauge 80/20 Polywebs. I guess when you find your 'The Guitar', you just know.

...Mind you, my Taylor uses HD Lights, which have mediums on the top three. Maybe my fingers are made of solid rock? Haha.
Old 21st January 2018
  #23
Gear Head
Hello. I thought your vocals with mic #2 and preamp B sounded the best/most balanced overall. Initially, I liked #1 the best, but I think that's mainly because that vocal seemed the loudest and really stood out. But the more I listened, #1 really just seems to have that hyped hi end that is commonly associated with cheaper mics. Honestly, it actually works well with your voice (great singing btw), but for a more polished and pro sound i'd go with mic #2 all day. I'm curious to find out what the mics are now.

Edit: After listening to the tweaked mixes I now slightly prefer #3 .

Last edited by CrunkThanAMug; 21st January 2018 at 03:38 AM.. Reason: Just listened to the tweaked mixes...
Old 21st January 2018
  #24
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TurboJets's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
Lol! That's a shame - you might have tried a dodgy one/one in desperate need of a setup? Though I'm not sure what they were like during that production period.
I do play professionally several hours, several days a week, but I haven't noticed it being any harder to play than my Taylor or Maton. In fact, I'd say it's the most playable out of all my acoustics (certainly the most inspiring and rewarding tonally), and isn't too hard on the fingers, even for lead/lick playing. It just use regular light gauge 80/20 Polywebs. I guess when you find your 'The Guitar', you just know.

...Mind you, my Taylor uses HD Lights, which have mediums on the top three. Maybe my fingers are made of solid rock? Haha.
You are probably right about the setup. I doubt they had bothered.
Old 21st January 2018
  #25
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___GLM___'s Avatar
tweaked its #2 for me. if you like it brighter, use some hf-boost, but the vocals sound tight and powerfull
Old 21st January 2018
  #26
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You're a good singer and your voice is not a difficult one (means that with every one of these 3 mics you could get a good, professional result) and I could work with any of these 3 mics.

My personal pref (and I listened to the mixed versions only) is the nr.3.
It is airier, brighter, and for THIS specific song where intimacy is key it fits very good imho. I might de ess a little bit more though.
Number 2 is also good after you tweaked it.
Number 1 is the smoothest / warmer of the bunch and sounds very good, at this point is really more an artistic choice.

Afterall is a matter of taste..

As said your vocals are not difficult you could sing in an sm57 with the voice you have and it will sound good.. not every singer is like that unfortunately.

Mind you I was on a train and listened to earbuds.. :-0



Cheu

Last edited by cheu78; 4 weeks ago at 11:18 PM..
Old 21st January 2018
  #27
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monkeyxx's Avatar
Yeah after listening to the tweaks I'm starting to like 3 more.
Old 21st January 2018
  #28
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b0se's Avatar
You can sing dude. Lovely voice.

1 and 3 for me. I like the warmth of 2 but the the clarity and (relative) 'harshness' of 1 suits the story and lyrics. It's a loss of love, mis treatment and cold shoulder. The warm hug of 2 doesn't suit it as much, unless it's from the perspective of still being in (and giving) love regardless of the treatment, and feeling 'warm'. Then it still works.

1 carries vulnerability and pain better. It gets my vote in this case.

How do you feel when you sing it? Is a loss, or there something there you still want to give? That would be the choice of mic artistically.

Last edited by b0se; 21st January 2018 at 05:05 PM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
For sure! All good observations. Thanks for sharing your opinion. Because of the inherent subjectivity of this stuff (ears, listening environments, personal preference, etc), the only way to get a real idea of what actually works is to get as many opinions as possible.
Of course.
I strongly disagree on that "the only way to get a real idea of what actually works is to get as many opinions as possible" though - one should surely listen and value others' opinions, and learn why others seem to have such (possibly different) opinions, but one should be able to decide what works on one's own, even when others' opinions are different.

That too is, of course, my opinion again

As for the new clips I think what I thought before about how the mics sound, and there's way too much post proc there for my taste - mic 1 became hairy and less clear, like it occupies much more space than before, but the substance isn't much more and it hasn't changed for the better, and it's quite a bit more scooped.
Mic 2 became way too "big" sounding, and mic 3 went in the same direction, but the effect is a bit less.
The reverb is a bit intrusive, and the delay is very intrusive if you ask me.

Also I'd still be interested in hearing what these mics are!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #30
Gear Addict
 

So when's the big reveal?
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